County’s Little Leaguers hit the diamonds

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan Players and coaches from the Cambridge Senior League 1999 State Championship team threw first pitches to young athletes to start the 2018 season.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Players and coaches from the Cambridge Senior League 1999 State Championship team threw first pitches to young athletes to start the 2018 season.

CAMBRIDGE – Young athletes and their families had an exciting morning on Saturday, as Little League baseball and softball players took part in Opening Day ceremonies and the first games of the 2018 season.

In Cambridge, the day began with the traditional parade down Race Street. In a procession led by a police car and a fire engine with lights flashing, pickup trucks carried full loads of grinning boys and girls.

Decked out in their uniforms with their coaches beside them, the children waved to family and fans along the route to Pliescott Park. During the ceremony, Cambridge Little League President Brandon Hesson introduced every player and coach, from the middle schoolers to the youngest coach-pitch players.

“When I think about Cambridge Little League, I think about it being for our community,” Mr. Hesson said as he looked across the diamond to the bleachers packed with proud parents. “I feel like it’s a little piece of Cambridge.”

Luke and Sadie Carels recited the Little League Pledge, and then Mr. Hesson had a surprise for the ball fans.

He had gathered most of the members of the 1999 Senior League State Baseball Championship team. Rather than have someone perform the usual single first pitch, Mr. Hesson had each 1999 player, as well as their coach and manager, toss a ball to a child.

“We were able to get almost everybody,” he said.

Coach Steve Conn was there with Manager Mike Willey. Their former players were Eric Willey, Stevie Conn, Dustin Edgar, Brian Hall, Lee Lednum, Ryan Robinson, Howard Todd, Steve Twilley, Mo Tyler and Mike Willey.

In Hurlock, Tri-City Little League teams started their season with a notable guest.

David “Tink” Smith was there to show the kids how it’s done – with his experience, he should know. He was a player in 1954, the inaugural season of Little League in Hurlock. That team was managed by Bobby Wright, who still umpires games.

After playing until 1956, Mr. Smith returned to coach Little League from 1989 through 1990, Senior League from 1991 to 1993, and American League from 1993 to 1996.

“In 2004, he was involved in organizing and celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Little League baseball in Hurlock,” a statement from Tri-City said. “He had four sons play in Little League through American League baseball in Hurlock.”

Now the family is on its third generation in the program, with two of Mr. Smith’s grandsons playing in the league. One of them, Brayden Harrington Smith, caught the first pitch Saturday, from his grandfather.

Mr. Smith’s contributions to Dorchester youth are fondly remembered, even by rival coaches.

“I so enjoyed coaching against Tink Smith,” Wayne A. Cole said in a post on social media. “Such a great gentleman, but you had to bring your “A” game when you played against his teams. This guy could flat out coach!”

Debbie Jones Walker recalled good times with her family, and their affection for Mr. Smith.

“So much love for this man! He has been a huge part of my life growing up playing softball with my father, and his sons playing baseball with my brother,” Ms. Walker wrote. “My family, along with his, were together almost every weekend traveling for softball tournaments. This weekend is great for those memories of my Dad, who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and seeing Tink throw the first pitch. They were great buddies and I will always treasure their friendship.”

New bonds were being formed Saturday, among some of the county’s youngest athletes. Mr. Hesson said, “I hope you players understand that it’s not only about having fun and learning skills, but also about representing our community.”

The leagues are looking for volunteers in many capacities and donations. To contact Tri-City, call 443-747-1482, or visit www.tricityll.com. Cambridge Little League can be reached through the group’s Facebook page.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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